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How technology has improved the woodwork industry

Wood; a natural product that mankind has used for millennia to construct everything from buildings and furniture to art. The use of wood in woodworking has a long and storied history. Ever since our ancestors learned to make tools, we have been carving wood into many different forms, utilising its natural beauty.

Like with everything, technology has played a part in the evolution of society, and several technological revolutions have aided in the development of the modern-day woodwork industry. New machinery has brought many advantages, including efficiency, time, and energy-saving.

Where it all began

Since the Industrial Revolution 300 years ago, the rate of technological change has dramatically revolutionised our entire society. Automation brought a vastly increased output which benefitted everyone in a way never seen before. Products could be manufactured to a higher degree of quality and efficiency than previously, and woodworking was one of the industries that benefited directly from this remarkable paradigm shift.

Wood can be considered as the unsung hero of the technological revolution that brought us from a stone and bone culture. Used as a fuel and building source, this versatile material has worked wonders over the millennia. The increased use of fossil fuels brought a change of fuel and heat sources in domestic and industrial applications, meaning that the use of wood for energy dropped off. However, as a building and decorative material, wood has persisted until the modern-day.

Woodwork industry: a revolution

The increased automation and complexity of machinery since the Industrial Revolution has revolutionised the woodworking industry, from the overwhelming use of hand tools to the specialised machinery we see today in workshops across the world. The widespread use of electricity in the Victorian era and then the information technology revolution of the 20th century both worked to further the development of new and unique ways to work with wood.

Modern equipment used in the woodworking industry

• CNC routers – Computer numerical control (CNC) routers perform multiple operations, including drilling, routing, and sawing with precise numerical control by use of a computer interface, but there are still alot of table saw uses. A CNC router can produce one-off pieces just as well as the repeat production of identical pieces. These machines ensure high cut quality and productivity rates. Whilst expensive, a CNC router will pay for itself over its lifetime.

• Edgebander – An edgebander is used to automatically adhere sheet materials with edging. Common applications of these machines include furniture, door and kitchen manufacturing. They use EVA or PUR glue – PUR is preferred due to improved water and heat resistance.

• Spindle moulders – Spindle moulders are used to cut profiles into various materials. Using a revolving spindle which can be rotated at different speeds, modern spindle moulders are controlled by electronics, dramatically increasing accuracy and reducing the necessary setup time. Either a fixed fence can be used for standard work, or if curved work needs to be carried out, a ring-fence can be used instead which increases ease and safety of use. Modern spindle moulders can also tilt for added flexibility. A spindle moulder offers a very quick return on investment.

• Tenoners – Tenoners is a great example of a modern technological solution for traditional techniques. The tenon joint (a square joint with a scribe added for the frame profile), which has been around since 2500BC when it was used by the ancient Egyptians in shipbuilding, is one of the most important joints in woodworking. Using modern CNC techniques, the efficiency of production has increased exponentially.

Many companies exist today which supply woodwork equipment. They have a good range of tools and machinery which are used by workshops, small family-run businesses and even huge industrial units, churning out hundreds of thousands of pieces of furniture, doors, and building materials. 

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